Fusing the personal and the political in high-voltage verse, Amiri Baraka – “whose long illumination of the black experience in America was called incandescent in some quarters and incendiary in others” (New York Times) – was one of the preeminent literary innovators of the past century. This volume comprises the fullest spectrum of his rousing, revolutionary poems, from his first collection to previously unpublished pieces composed during his final years.
Throughout Baraka’s career as a prolific writer in several genres (also published under the name LeRoi Jones), he was vehemently outspoken against oppression of African American citizens, and he radically altered the discourse surrounding racial inequality. His legacy in world literature is matched by his widespread influence as an activist and cultural leader. The environments and social values that inspired his poetics changed during the course of his life, a trajectory that can be traced in this retrospective spanning more than five decades of profoundly evolving subjects and techniques. His bohemian youth in Greenwich Village led to crucial, prominent involvement with the Civil Rights and Black Arts movements, followed by his embrace of Marxist philosophy and the influence of jazz musicians. Praised for its lyricism and introspection, his early poetry emerged from the Beat generation, while his later writing is marked by intensely rebellious fervor and subversive ideology. All along, his primary focus was on how to live and love in the present moment despite the enduring difficulties of human history.
Herein, an illuminating and inspiring assemblage of poems from eleven of his published books, with a final section of recent poems compiled after his death. Selected and prefaced by his friend and colleague Paul Vangelisti, S O S is the essential volume of Baraka’s poetic work.
Grove Press, Hardcover, 1st Edition, 1st Printing, 2014, 532 pages